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How Do You Deal With Trauma After a Car Accident?


Vehicle accidents are scary, violent, and unexpected. It’s normal to be traumatized after a car crash. For most people, this will be temporary. If you are suffering from mild trauma after a wreck you can improve your ability to cope and move on by seeing a counselor, maintaining a routine, having a healthy and active lifestyle, and empowering yourself through defensive driving.

If your trauma is more serious the above strategies may be helpful, but they also may not be enough to get you through this on their own. If you feel like you may have any of the following conditions, it’s time to speak to your doctor about your treatment options.

The Most Common Mental Health Issues Caused By Car Accidents

There are several mental health conditions that can be caused by the trauma of a car accident. If you are suffering from any of the following, your quality of life can be greatly improved by seeking professional help.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Acute Stress Disorder

The main difference between post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and acute stress disorder (ASD) is that the latter lasts four weeks or less. PTSD can last six months or longer, and in some cases it will be permanent. Aside from the duration of the illness, these two conditions have the same features.

How to deal with Trauma after a car accident
How to deal with Trauma after a car accident/ Photo by Michale Jin on Unsplash

The American Psychological Association has stated that outside of military service, vehicle accidents are the most common cause of PTSD. This condition is your brain’s response to a life-threatening situation. Although it causes distress, it is meant to keep you safe by making you hypervigilant to danger.

The symptoms of PTSD and ASD include:

  • Flashbacks and intrusive thoughts
  • Avoidance of people, places, and events that remind you of the trauma
  • Emotional numbness
  • Anger
  • Fear and paranoia
  • Insomnia
  • Detachment from others
  • Suicidal thoughts

Approximately 9% of the millions of people who are involved in accidents each year will develop this condition. PTSD can be treated. With professional help, you can learn to cope with the symptoms

Anxiety Disorder

After an accident you may experience anxiety for weeks or even months. This is the most common mental health issue in the United States, and it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Anxiety can cause tension, nausea, headaches, dizziness, and chest pain. Serious anxiety can also cause panic attacks. The treatments for this condition include therapy and/or anti-anxiety medications.


Depression is common after a car accident, especially if you’ve been injured and you’re in pain. You may also develop depression if someone else was seriously injured or killed in the accident. One of the reasons people who have been involved in crashes develop depression is the fact that they can no longer enjoy the life they used to have.

The symptoms of depression can include:

  • Feeling guilty
  • Feeling worthless
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Anger and irritability
  • Fatigue and a feeling of not being able to do anything
  • Insomnia or difficulty waking
  • Suicidal thoughts

Financial stress can also cause depression. This is common after a car accident. If the crash was not your fault, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit. It is your right to seek compensation.

Resources for Post-Accident Trauma

There are resources available to anyone who has suffered trauma after a vehicle accident. If you aren’t sure where to turn or how to cope, you may want to contact one of the following organizations.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA)

The National Center for PTSD

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

These organizations offer educational materials and therapist finders that will help you find mental health professionals in your area who can help you get through this.